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Bait is the Urdu lafz for stanza (of a poem) and baazi means a game.

Bait Baazi is a verbal game and a genre of Urdu poetry played by composing verses of Urdu poems. The game is common among Urdu speakers in Pakistan and India. It is similar to Antakshari, the Sistanian Baas-o-Beyt, the Malayalam Aksharaslokam and, more generally, the British Crambo.

Rules: The game starts with the first person reciting a stanza (bait) of a poem. Each following player has to reply with another verse starting with the last letter of the verse used by the previous player. A verse that has already been used in a game may not be repeated. The rules used by experienced players can be more stringent, such as allowing the use of only one poet’s verses or of one theme.

The Urdu language has a very rich poetic tradition, and the game is very popular among women and poetry enthusiasts particularly in Pakistan. Schools and colleges regularly organize Bait Baazi competitions. Bait Baazi competitions are also held using radio, television and now the Internet. A very popular example is frequently played Bait Baazi of popular television show “Tariq Aziz Show” a.k.a. “Bazm-e-Tariq Aziz” formerly known as Neelam Ghar of PTV. In this weekly entertainment show, participants, usually from various colleges, take part in the game and compete for attractive prize. The show produces a lot of enthusiasm for young Urdu lovers because selection of couplets is regarded as an important factor for determining the winner in case of a tie. (source: wikipedia)

In the classic film Mughal-e-Azam the bait baazi song “Teri mehfil me qismat azma kar hum bhi dekhenge” is the best example of bait baazi. It is a poetic singing competition between the two groups.

Here is a link to the song:

If you would like to experience bait-baazi first hand, do head over to the Jashn-e-Rekhta Urdu festival next week in New Delhi, where they will celebrate this Urdu tradition, as part of the festival. For more details, log onto http://jashnerekhta.org/